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Category Archives: Discipleship

And When You Pray: The Hardest Prayer to Pray

(a sermon for  July 2, 2017, the 4th Sunday after Pentecost; third in a series, based on Matthew 6:9-13 and Colossians 1:9-14)

“Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Two brief sentences contained within a single verse of Matthew’s gospel that are considered by theologians and biblical scholars to be the second and third petitions of the Lord’s Prayer; and yet it’s a sentiment that just kind of flows together as one as we quickly repeat the words on any given Sunday morning (“thykingdomcomethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheaven”), to the point where we might not notice, much less wholly understand what we’re saying!  And that’s unfortunate, friends; because it’s precisely at this point in our praying the Lord’s Prayer that things, as they say, get real.

It has been aptly suggested that there are essentially three levels of prayer; and how and when you and I transition from one level to another says a great deal about our own personal and spiritual growth.  Now, the first level of prayer is very basic and, well, very self-oriented: these are prayers that we say quite naturally as children, and which sometimes continue on as adults; where God is the heavenly giver of all good things, and you and I are the ones placing the orders!  It’s “O Lord, please give me a pony!”  It’s “O God, I don’t ask you for very much, but could you please, please, please not let the teacher call on me today because I didn’t do my homework and I’m not prepared!”(That’s the kind of school prayer that will always be with us, friends!) It’s “O Lord, help me get this job today… let me get the car I really want at a price I can afford… please, God, won’t you make this person I’m about to ask out on a date say yes?”

And on it goes; not that it’s inherently wrong to pray these kind of prayers (sometimes they even work out!); it’s just that as we live and grow and reach a deeper understanding of God, we do begin to realize that prayers like that can be a little frivolous, not to mention materialistic; that God’s not to be seen as merely some cosmic Santa Claus, and that just maybe our prayers to our Lord really ought to be a little bigger than that.

And therein lay our transition to the second level of prayer.  We still ask for God to give us what we’re asking for, it’s just that now we’re asking for things like life and health and food; for comfort and healing and strength in the midst of sickness and sorrow; for insight and clarity in times of discernment; for the inspiration we need to make good and right decisions regarding employment, relationships or any other number of challenges we end up facing in this thing we call life.  We are literally and spiritually asking that God “give us this day our daily bread,” and by the way, we’re also praying that those around us might be given that bread as well.

I dare say that this “second” level of prayer is the place where the most of us dwell in our spiritual lives; and I do mean that as a compliment!  It’s the place where we are profoundly aware of God’s abiding presence in our daily lives; it’s where we begin to truly understand that God’s Holy Spirit is alive and moving in and through all his people in ways that are transformative and empowering;  it’s where we are moved to truly love our neighbors as ourselves; and it’s how we as the church are, as the Rev. John Dorhauer, our General Minister and President in the United Church of Christ, said in a speech yesterday at our General Synod in Baltimore, equipped to be “one of the greatest agents of social transformation that this world has ever known.”

The truth is that many of us, as we say in our communion liturgy this morning, who “confess Jesus as the Christ and who seek to follow Christ’s way,” might well spend the whole of our spiritual journeys at that level of prayer.  And that’s not a bad thing; I mean, there’s communion with our Lord, there’s great spiritual depth; it’s good and nurturing, and brings us hope, and comfort and strength.  And moreover, we discover that life is not all about us, but about reaching out to others in Jesus’ name, and seeking to live together in a just and loving community.

So spiritually speaking, you see, this second level of prayer is fineexcept…

… there’s this third level of prayer; a higher level, but one that’s more difficult. And it’s all summed up in what might be the hardest prayer of all to pray: those two simple and yet all-encompassing phrases, “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, one earth as it is in heaven.”

Thy will be done! Think with me for a moment about the sheer weight such a prayer; for it represents the polar opposite of those level one, “give me what I ask for” prayers, in that God’s intent and desire for our lives and our are placed at the forefront rather than our requests and petitions; we’re not asking God to change his will, nor are we asking God to bless ours.  We are coming to the Lord God and saying, whatever you wish, whatever you desire, whatever you plan for my life and for this world, O God, so might it be according to your will!

The thing is, friends, we pray this prayer every Sunday and at nearly every gathering we have as God’s people:  “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  We know the sound and the flow of the words; but the question is, how many of us truly understand what that means?  How many of us are willing to give up the control that we at least like to think that we have over this life, and to surrender ourselves, our lives, the lives of those we love, and the well-being of our very world and willingly place it all in the hands of God; trusting God and God alone to care for us and bring us into his kingdom?   That’s what makes this the hardest prayer to pray; for in doing so you and I are forced to shed this notion, seemingly part of our human nature and reinforced again and again by the popular culture that we are so-called “self-made” men and women, and instead live wholly unto the truth that we are God’s children, precious and chosen, and subject to God’s will for our lives, and not our own.

“Your will be done on earth:” I love what the Rev. Dr. Thomas Long, of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, has written about this particular petition of the Lord’s Prayer; he writes that these words bring us right back “to the pew where we sit, to the shop where we work, to the relationships where we struggle to be responsible, to the place where we try to serve.”  That’s because when we are faithfully living unto God’s will rather than our own, there is going to be a strong and essential connection between that decision and everything else we do here on earth. “A cry to the God of salvation leads us in God’s name to our neighbor in need” because, writes Long, “a plea for the heavenly God to save empowers to be earthly agents of reconciliation.”

To put this another way, for us to surrender our priorities to those of God doesn’t mean we’re surrendering altogether.  This is borne out of our text this morning from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, in which the Apostle, perhaps writing from prison and toward the end of his life, tells these newly minted Christians that “we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understand, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord.”   Paul’s prayer for them is that they be filled with strength and joy and purpose and patience in their lives and living, bearing fruit “in every good work” even as they continue to grow “in the knowledge of God.”  Make no mistake; what Paul is saying here is that the spiritual journey begun by these believers in Colossae is only at its beginning, and likewise, their discipleship in doing the will of God in the name of Jesus Christ is a work in progress; much, as it turns out, like the kingdom of God itself!

There’s a reason, I believe, why those two petitions – “thy kingdom come,” and “thy will be done” – follow one another so closely in this prayer that Jesus teaches us to pray.  Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God are central to his message and “good news,” but if you read through the gospels, you’ll find that there’s this dichotomy of thought to what he says about that kingdom.  On the one hand, Jesus says again and again that the kingdom is already here in the midst of us, by virtue of Jesus himself; and yet Jesus also says that this promised kingdom will, but has yet to emerge in its fullness.  And so it is a work in progress, this blessed kingdom to come; and when you and I pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are also humbly and yet boldly praying that God’s will be done for the sake of that kingdom.  We are asking God to bring that kingdom to fruition; so that God’s reign of love and justice and peace and true prosperity will be extended to all of God’s children everywhere.  But above all, we are praying that this all important work of the kingdom might be furthered in and through you and me, so that God’s will might be wholly and wonderfully done “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Anyone who’s ever had to do so, in any fashion, knows just how hard it is to “let it go.” As I alluded before, as people we’re simply not wired that way; even as we pray to God for life and health and food, even as we ask God to bless others in Jesus’ name it is tempting and much easier for us to try to keep our own handle on things.  But isn’t it also true that it’s when we do “let it go” that we’re enabled to truly experience the wonder and adventure of life?  I think of our children learning to ride a bicycle for the first time; how it was only when they decided to have us stop running beside them and let go of the bike they could experience the incredible sense of freedom that the two-wheeler could provide.  Or how it was, not too many years later, to let go of those same children so they might be able to build lives of their own as adults.  For that matter, how it felt for us to let go of old fears and apprehensions so that we might be ready to engage in the next great adventure that life sets before us! Indeed, so much of what makes life meaningful and fulfilling has to do with letting go with that which holds us back from being who we really are; and so it is with our walk with the Almighty. To release from our own grasp the need to do everything “our way” ultimately keeps us from living and walking in God’s way; and what an adventure we’d be missing!

For you see, for us to pray that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven” not only shows forth our true allegiance to God in Christ, it also means that we are participating in the greatest adventure of all: the gospel’s good news that God’s kingdom is already at work among us and is coming, soon and very soon, in all its fullness.

And so let us not be afraid to pray this amazing, wonderful, utterly hard prayer that Jesus has taught us; placing ourselves and this world in God’s hands… for even now, and even right here, the kingdom comes!

And thanks be to God for it!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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The People of What Happens Next

(a sermon for May 28, 2017, the 7th Sunday of Easter, based on Acts 1:1-14)

Actually, for me the whole scene has the look and the feel of a high school or college graduation!

To begin with, this story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven represents the last gathering of Jesus with his disciples and marks the end of a long and remarkable journey: from the shores of Galilee where this disparate group of fishermen, tax collectors and societal outcasts first heard Jesus’ call, through the agonies of the cross, to the empty tomb and beyond; indeed, we’re told that in the forty days just past Jesus had “presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them… and speaking about the kingdom of God.”  But that was all coming to an end, and now as “they were together for the last time,” (The Message) Jesus is giving these disciples some last minute instructions for the way ahead:  “on no account” should you leave Jerusalem, but instead you “‘must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me.’” Soon, and very soon, you see, “you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit!”

See what I mean here?  Just as in any kind of graduation ceremony there’s a definite sense of closure, but there’s also this baffling and rather disconcerting reference to the mysterious future that is just about to unfold!  I remember very well my own graduation from Bangor Seminary; in particular the moment when our seminary president, the Rev. Dr. Wayne Glick, stood at the podium and informed us in his rich, Appalachian drawl, “You people think you have learned all you need to know here at the seminary… well, I am here to tell you that the learning has just begun!”  What?  You mean to say that our full three years of engaging in intense biblical study, all that wrestling with theological conundrums both old and new, to say nothing of all of the “on the job training” for any and all pastoral challenges that we faced as student pastors wasn’t going to be enough?  To employ the language of the Old Testament, “Oy Vey!”

But you see, that’s the nature of these kinds of moments, isn’t it? You’ve reached this very important place in your life’s journey when everything has rightly seemed to come into focus, and yet – I dare say even for those whose pathway seems solidly set before them – there is an uncertainty about it all that is both unsettling and even at times terrifying!

And so it is for the disciples; especially after they ask Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” and Jesus answers, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” Can you even imagine what the eleven of them had to have been thinking at this point?  Jesus, we’ve come all this way and have experienced so much; to the point where the kingdom is in our very grasp and now you won’t even tell us when it’s going to happen?  Nope… as The Message translates it, “You don’t get to know the time.  Timing is the Father’s business.”

Oy Vey, indeed!  This was obviously not the answer they were looking for; they’d figured that now that the resurrection had happened everything else – for the world and for them – would most certainly fall into place.  But now they find out that their journey goes on, that the way ahead is just about as uncertain as it was before, and the Kingdom… well, the Kingdom will come when the Kingdom will come, and that’s all you really get to know right now!

But, Jesus goes on to say, even though you don’t get to know what happens next, “what you’ll get is the Holy Spirit.”  “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Power:  in the Greek, dunamis, meaning dynamic, dynamo or even dynamite; Witnesses: from the Greek word marturos, from where we get our word martyr!  So, in other words, what Jesus says to them – the very last thing that Jesus says to them, by the way (!) – is that the way ahead for you is still uncertain, but that the Holy Spirit, which God has promised to give you, will provide you with the power, the dynamic, if you will, to keep on the journey ahead and to be my witnesses even when that way ahead proves to be very difficult; but moreover to do so with a clear sense of purpose and with joy!  You are being called to go “all in;” to live wholly and completely unto your faith, bearing witness to God’s enduring presence wherever you are and in whatever comes. What happens next?  In many ways, you are the people of what happens next!

And with that said, Jesus ascended into heaven.

“As they were watching,” Luke writes, “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”  Just like that.  It’s no wonder that apparently, the disciples spent a long time “staring up into the empty sky;” also no wonder that it took two men “in white robes” to stir them out of their reverie, saying, “why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” This Jesus, “who was just taken from among you to heaven will come as certainly – and mysteriously – as he left.”   The message was clear:  the time for standing around was over; there would be a moment when Jesus would return, but for now the next part of the journey – this immense, mysterious and seemingly improbable journey – was just beginning.

I love what  Barbara Brown Taylor has written about this; it comes from her book Gospel Medicine and she says that “no one standing around watching them that day could have guessed what an astounding thing happened when they all stopped  looking into the sky and looked at each other instead.   But in the days and years to come it would become very apparent… with nothing but a promise and a prayer, those eleven people consented to become the church and nothing was ever the same again, beginning with them.  The followers became leaders, the listeners became preachers, the converts became missionaries, the healed became healers.  The disciples became apostles, witnesses of the risen Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit… [and] surprising things began to happen.  They began to say things that sounded like him, and they began to do things they had never seen anyone but him do before.  They became,” concludes Taylor, believers who were “brave and capable and wise.”

They became the church… they were formed into a gathered community of people bound by a common mission and a shared calling, to witness unto the resurrection of Jesus Christ; beginning in those times and situations where perhaps only two or more are gathered, but then maybe throughout Jerusalem, and then Judea and Samaria, and then… who knows, even “to the ends of the earth.”  It’s a mission that has endured throughout the centuries…

… and it is the same calling that is extended and continues in you and in me today.

That’s right… lest we forget in these days of confused situations: this story of Jesus’ ascension into heaven; this story of this time that exists between “the now” of the world as we currently know it, and the “not yet” of the world as it is promised it will someday be?  It’s our story just as much as it was theirs; and as the church, you see, as the church of this generation, we are “the people of what happens next.”

You see, in every generation the question has always been the same:  when is the church truly being the church of Jesus Christ?  How that question gets answered and the ways that faith is expressed most certainly has grown and adapted over the course of those generations and in keeping with changing times and new challenges.  But ultimately, the answer to that question – when is the church truly being the church – has never changed; we are the church when we are living wholly and completely as witnesses of the Risen Christ!

We are the church when we speak boldly of the truth of Jesus’ teachings (by our words, if necessary, but much more importantly by our example) unto people and unto a world that is hurting profusely and is desperate for love, and for justice, and for a peace that the world cannot provide.  We are the church when we make the commitment to not be passive about moving into the future, letting ourselves become diminished by whatever the world’s latest set of priorities happen to be; but rather to let the power of God’s own Holy Spirit be our own dynamic as persons and as a people, so that we might truly be part and parcel of “what happens next” for the sake of God’s Kingdom within us and all around us, starting right here on Mountain Road, in Concord and New Hampshire, and even “to the ends of the earth.”

And don’t misunderstand me here; for us to be an effective “witness” is not measured by the size or the scope of the effort; but rather by its sincerity and the depth of its love.

Many years ago – I think it was that same summer I graduated from seminary – I was actually on vacation and got a call on a Sunday afternoon from a member of the church where I had been serving as a student, and now newly ordained, pastor.  “I just wanted to tell you what happened this morning, so you didn’t hear about it via the grapevine,” she said, and went on to tell me how one of the older women of the church had suffered a stroke during that morning’s worship service.  Apparently, they’d just finished singing the middle hymn (which at that church was sung just before the sermon), and though everyone else had sat down, “Edna” remained standing, unresponsive to those in the pew next to her.

Now understand that under ordinary circumstances this was a small congregation, but in mid-August, and while the pastor was away, it was downright cozy!   So there was no way this was going to happen quietly or unobtrusively; and of course, everyone immediately gathered around Edna. The worship leader that day, as I recall, was a lay preacher from our association name Leona, and even she put aside her sermon notes and she also came down from the altar to see what she could do to help.

As it was described to me, everybody had a job.  One of the women was a retired nurse, so she started checking vital signs.  Another quickly went to the kitchen to bring in some cold water, while still another rushed to the phone to call an ambulance. One of the men went out to the head of the church driveway to flag down the EMT unit when it arrived.  As for the rest of the congregation, they either prayed quietly or held hands with others as they prayed.   Soon enough, the ambulance came and the paramedics did their work, but even the folks of the congregation waited and watched as they took Edna back to the hospital for a full examination; with a couple of them going along for emotional support.

And after the ambulance had left, the members of the congregation going back to their pews, one of the Deacons of that church (as I recall, he was always a Deacon of that church!), turned to Leona and said, “Well, Madam Pastor, I guess you can preach that sermon now.”  And with incredible wisdom, Leona just smiled and said, “I think you folks already did.”

It’s a scene that as a church pastor I’ve seen repeated time and time again over the years; I’ve seen it happen here at East Church and with you in a whole variety of wonderful, life-giving, gospel proclaiming ways!

Beloved, we are, each and every one of us here, called to be witnesses to the Risen Christ and a living testimony to the Kingdom of God taking root and flourishing in our midst. What we do here in this place, and also what we do out there, serves to proclaim the ways that faith informs and directs what, for the sake of our faith, we intend for one another, for our families and friends, for our community and for our world.  We are the people of what happens next by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit working within us.

And so let us be bold in our witness; let us truly go “all in” for what we know is true.  Let the good news be heard and seen… in us.

May God in Christ bless our witness, and may our thanks for all things be unto God.

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 

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But Now You Are God’s People!

(a sermon for May 13, 2017, the 5th Sunday of Easter, based on 1 Peter 2:2-10)

I have a question for you to ponder this morning, and it’s this: Who are you?

Seriously… just who are you, anyway?

It’s a question that truly does require some pondering, for it’s one that can well be answered in a multitude of ways.  The first and most obvious answer, I suppose, comes in a name:  for instance, “Who am I?  I am Michael Lowry.”  But then again, that simply gives rise to more specific answers; like, “I am Michael Lowry who lives in beautiful Concord, New Hampshire,” or as it happens in my case, “I’m Michael Lowry, pastor of East Church,” which inevitably leads to the question, “So… is that Reverend Lowry, Pastor Lowry, Father Lowry… and yes, I’ve even been asked this… Rabbi Lowry?”  So granted, the title might vary from time to time; but at the heart of all those titles lay at least part of who I am!

Because yes, there’s more to me than just that; I’m also Lisa’s husband; I’m “Dad” to Jake, Sarah and Zachary; I’m still very much my mother’s son (in fact, there are places up in northern Maine where I am still known primarily as “Keith and Sylvia’s boy”), I’m Dale and Sylvia’s son-in-law, and around this neighborhood I’m afraid I’m also known as Ollie’s person (Ollie is our Jack Russell terrier!). I’m also an uncle, a brother-in-law, a neighbor and friend, a member of the United Church of Christ who happens to be a New England Congregationalist at heart; I’m a music lover, guitar player and singer of John Denver tunes, and, oh, by the way?  I’m now the bearer of two brand new titanium hips that I’m told will set off airport security in a single bound!  I’m a person who works reasonably hard from day to day, who probably… no, strike that… certainly worries way too much about stuff I can’t do anything about, and who sometimes despairs as to the state of the world.  But that said, I’m a person who loves and who knows how blessed he is that he is loved by others… that’s who I am, and so much more besides.

But enough about me (!)… the stated question was, after all, who are you?

You see, what I suspect is that your answer to this question is at least as deep and layered as mine; likely even more so!  For such is the tapestry of our lives: who we are, friends, is revealed by a lifetime’s worth of experience and the wide array of relationships we’ve had with others along the way. How we “identify” ourselves so often ends up being the sum total of all that we’ve seen and moreover, by how we’ve been seen by others. In fact, for better or worse, it could well be said that who we are is largely informed by what we’ve been told we are; by our parents, our children, our nation, our jobs, our friends, our schools, our culture, even our bank accounts.

This is no small truth, friends, and sadly, it’s not always a positive one. There are so many, maybe even some who are sitting here today, who deep down in their hearts truly believe themselves to be less than worthy of any kind of love or respect, or who have come to think of themselves as somehow inadequate and no good at all; and this, all because somewhere along the way, someone identified them as such by their hurtful words and through an attitude of degradation.  Who am I? There are those among us who cannot even answer this question because all they’ve ever heard all their lives is that they’re nothing: the kind of condemnations that have all too often been reinforced in the kind of deep seated cruelties and societal prejudices that sadly pass from generation to generation.

So isn’t it good news that amidst all those who would tell us that we’re nobody and amongst all those who would seek to degrade and marginalize for the sake of their own self-assurance that there is a single voice that belligerently shouts forth that as God’s cherished children we identify as something far greater than the world can every understand; that as believers, “we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”   Who are you?  Who am I?  We’re mortal… mortal and rejected in so many ways, and yet we are chosen and precious in God’s sight.  No matter what anyone else might have to say about it, no matter how the powers and principalities of this world might choose to define it or seek to diminish it, this is our identity.  “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”  That’s who we are, beloved; that’s who you are!

This first Epistle of Peter, from which our text is drawn this morning, was addressed to a group of early Christians living and ministering somewhere in the Mediterranean world, most likely in the Roman provinces where Turkey exists today.  These were people brand new to the Christian faith; frankly unfamiliar with the ideal and reality of living in Christ and serving Christ; and that’s why they get compared here, and I should add not unkindly, to “newborn infants,” longing “for the pure, spiritual milk.”   Understand they believed; they “identified” as followers of the risen Christ, but you also have to know that it wasn’t an easy identification, for these new Christians were essentially living as strangers in a strange land, facing persecution both direct and subtle at every turn.  History tells us that for the most part, these believers were being dismissed as little more than religious fanatics; in the words of one 1st Century Roman leader, as purveyors of a “perverse and extravagant superstition.”

Men, women and children; all rejected by the world, and yet, as the Epistle makes clear, they were “chosen and precious in God’s sight,”  set apart by the Lord as “living stones” to “be built into a spiritual house,” after the manner of Jesus Christ himself, the very cornerstone of this whole new world.  Men, women and children; all called as “a holy priesthood”  to proclaim the mighty acts of God in that strange place where they were to dwell; to continue the reality of Christ’s own life and ministry in their lives and living! But more than an honorary degree, so to speak, this identity as “God’s chosen” represents how every expectation of the world and its power structure gets turned upside down and inside out, all because of these heretofore mis-identified people who are now the royalty of God’s own kingdom!

In other words, friends, never mind what those who’ve rejected you have said you are!  What this epistle makes clear is that while once you were nobodies, people with nothing in common, now you are the church!  Now you are family; now you are God’s people, and that says it all; that tells the whole story, because that’s who you are!  By the grace of God made manifest in Christ’s resurrection, this is the identity that permeates and recreates anything and everything we’ve come to assume ourselves to be.

The truth of our baptism is that it’s not about what we ought to be, or should be, or what we can be if we only try a little bit harder.  Our baptism in the risen Christ asserts who we are: we are a new creation, a new people.  We are a holy nation; we are royalty because God in Christ says so.  We are God’s own with no doubt or hesitation about it at all; and that is good news indeed.  But understand: with this clear identity comes the challenge to live that way, right here and right now, both as persons and as a people of faith

Even here at East Church, in our own little corner of God’s Kingdom, we are that holy nation; we are the people called to proclaim the mighty acts of God:  at home, at work, in our relationships with our families and as friends, in the ways we that we seek to shape and change the structures of culture and society.  We are the church; and as the church, we’re the ones who “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ,” whether that happens in lifting the fallen and working against injustice in the world, or if it come to pass in some random act of kindness or simply offering up a shoulder to cry on.  You want my opinion?  This is what’s going to move us through these very difficult and downright confounding times in which we live; this is what creates the atmosphere of peace, and justice and love in the world; it’s knowing who we are and then living out of that identity; and it starts right here in this place and with us.  As G.K. Chesterton once put it, “We do not want, as the newspapers say, a Church that will move with the world.  We want a church that will move the world.”

In his book with a great title, The Gospel for the Person Who Has Everything, William Willimon tells the story of little boy named Clayton; who when asked what kind of party he wanted for his fifth birthday, replied that he wanted a party in which everyone invited was a king or a queen.  So he and his mother went to work building a whole array of silver crowns, each one made of cardboard and aluminum foil; then purple robes made of crepe paper; and finally, royal scepters built from sticks that had been spray-painted gold.  And on the day of the party, as the guests arrived each one was given his or her own personal crown, along with a robe and scepter; thus becoming a king or queen. It was all very regal; there was ice cream and cake of course, followed by a majestic procession up to the end of the block and back.  Everybody had a wonderful time; and the best part was that not only did everyone look like kings and queens, they got to act like kings and queens!

And that night, when the guests had all gone home, things were all cleaned up and as Clayton was being tucked into bed by his mother, Clayton said, “I wish everyone in the whole world would be a king or a queen – not just on my birthday, but every day.”  Well, Willimon goes on to say “something very much like that happened two thousand years ago at a place called Calvary.  We, who were nobodies, became somebodies.  If we could all believe that, perhaps we could start acting like that.”

It seems to me, beloved, that we would do well to believe that.  To know who we are, not just on Sunday mornings when we’re in church and it’s easy, but every morning and all throughout every day as we seek to live out of that identity.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people.”

That’s who we are, beloved.  So may we go forth as the people of God with lives of faithful service in Jesus’ name.

And in that, as always, may our thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Church, Discipleship, Epistles, Sermon

 

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